It was true; Sarm was the most dangerous planet in the galaxy. The entire place was swarming with thieves, drunks, rapists, and gamblers, as the majority of the buildings there were bars and clubs. Six days later, though, as they were passing the planet, Kat was hit with a strange feeling; it was almost as if she was leaving something behind. Instantly, she jumped out of her chair and sprinted into the pilot's cockpit. Once there, she quickly steered the craft back around for a landing.
Joking, as usual, she picked up the microphone. "Attention, passengers. We will now be stopping on Sarm. If you would like to thank me for delivering you so wonderfully to your destination, you may do so at this time, in the cockpit. Thank you for flying with Kat Airlines, and I hope you have a great day."
As anticipated, the door burst open a few seconds later to reveal a slightly out of breath Fee, and Tyler. In his normal faux suave manner, he leaned against the doorway with his arms crossed across his chest and looked down at the girl before him.
"Kat Airlines? Since when is this Kat Airlines? What happened to Tyler Airways? Was there some sort of mutiny aboard my ship that I was not aware of?"
"You mean, 'Was there some sort of mutiny aboard my ship of which I was not aware?'" Kat corrected, her lips forming a playful smirk. "And what is this Tyler Airways of which you speak? I was not aware that such a thing ever existed."
"Stop playing around, Kat. What do you mean, we're stopping on Sarm?! You know its reputation as well as Ty and I do," Fee cut in.
"She's here, guys. I don't know where, and I sure as hell don't know why my uncle would put her here of all places… but she's here."
Tyler and Fionnuala exchanged surprised looks, but then nodded gravely. As the flier landed on the outskirts of a rowdy city, we began our mission. The following week was spent contacting all of the orphanages on the planet; luckily, there weren't too many of them. The three were able to take their time with the search; on a planet was full of thieves, not police, they didn't have to worry about anyone calling the Unapolice to report a stolen flier.
Finally, they found the right place. An orphanage called Young Dreams said that they had once had a Natalie Startun, but she had been adopted six years ago. When Kat asked who had adopted her, she was informed that the information on the adoption had been "misplaced," before the lady on the other end hung up on the teen. Kat slammed down the phone in frustration; her moment of excitement had just been crushed. Natalie could be anywhere, and they didn't even have a last name that they could search for. To her surprise, Kat even felt a twinge of jealously within her; her twin had been adopted, yet she never had been. With a shake of her head, Kat pushed the feeling aside. Her sister deserved to have a home and a family; though she obviously didn't have a very good one, or else Kat wouldn't have had visions that she needed help.
Once Fee and Tyler had been clued in on Kat's small discovery, the three sat down to decide their next plan of action. For a moment, there was silence, until Fee pointed out that she must be nearby. "After all, people wouldn't go fifty miles away to look for a kid when there's an orphanage in their town."
"Well, yeah," Kat agreed. "But are we supposed to knock on every door, asking if the people inside know anyone in the area named Natalie? Her last name might've been changed, and it's a common first name."
"That's true, but she's got to have some friends around here, right? From school, or something? Someone around here must know her," Tyler said.
"Tyler's right… again," Fee said with a horrified expression upon her face.
The search started up once more, now with each of the three going to a different section of the neighborhood to knock on doors. Kat was the one to finally get a good result. She had trudged up to what felt like the twentieth door in the past half hour, thinking resentfully about how their strategy would never work. A rebellious looking girl who appeared to be about the age of seventeen opened the door. Her long hair was in a high ponytail, and the bangs that fell across her curious blue eyes were a mixture of natural blonde and bright blue. Upon seeing Kat, her eyes lit up and a smile crossed her face.
"Nat! When did you decide to go natural?" she said, looking at Kat's hair in apparent surprise. "And why are you so early? You weren't supposed to show up for another two hours… oh, no. He didn't beat you again, did he?"
Kat's eyes widened in surprise; she didn't know who this girl was, but she seemed to know Natalie really well. "I'm… not Nat," she managed to say after a few moments.
"Very funny. Do you actually think I don't know my best friend?"
"Okay… if I really wasn't Nat, where would she be?" Kat bit her lip, knowing that this would prove to be difficult.
"You stopped being funny about two minutes ago," was the reply, as the girl leaned against the doorframe with her arms crossed. "If you weren't Nat- which you are- you'd be at the bar."
"What bar? We're too young to go to bars…" Kat said, forgetting that very few things were actually illegal on Sarm.
The girl's eyes widened for a moment before narrowing. "Who are you?"
"My name's Kat… I'm looking for Nat, though, it's really important… can you tell me where to find her?"
In the end, the girl, whose name they learned was Miranda, escorted Kat, Tyler, and Fee to the bar. Once there, the three sent Kat off to the back, to find her twin. Miranda remained stubbornly convinced that there were not actually two of them, and insisted on calling Kat "Nat," until further proof was offered.
Kat stood in a long, dark hallway, uncertain about what she was supposed to do. Five doors lined the walls; the one to her left contained a television set, and Kat got a bad vibe from it and avoided it. Across the hall from it was a bathroom; the next one down was a storage room full of beer. Finally, Kat found her twin's bedroom. It was a decent size, with the usual furniture: bed, desk, and dresser. The bulletin board was what drew Kat's attention, though. On it, there were some pictures of Miranda, and a lot of different guys. Only one of the guys was labeled; his name was Ryan, and he was quite attractive. What proved to be a real shock, though, were the pictures of Natalie herself. She looked exactly like Kat, only with people that Kat had never met before, so it was like she was looking at a part of her own life that she had completely missed out on; it left her feeling dumbfounded. Staring at her sister's smiling face, an image filled Kat's mind, blocking out the picture.
A door was in front of her. She wanted to get out… she hated being in there…
A door slamming open brought her quickly back to reality, and she saw the man from her nightmares.
"I din't let you out!" he growled, slurring his words slightly. Grabbing her forearm in a tight, painful grip, he dragged Kat to the end of the hallway that she had been in earlier, to the final door. Opening it forcefully, he threw her in and locked it shut behind her.
Kat fell against the coats in the closet, glad that she hadn't hit a wall when he threw her. A sudden feeling of déjà vu hit her as she realized that this was what she had seen just a minute before. Natalie had been standing right where she was, wishing that she was out of the small space. Wondering where her twin had gotten to, Kat pushed the coats aside and smiled as she found a tunnel. A light at the other end beckoned to the teen, and she walked quickly towards it to find another small room. In it, there was a light bulb hanging from the ceiling, a table with a phone on it… and a girl.
Not knowing what else to say, but wanting to make her presence known, Kat said the first thing that came to mind. "Hello?"
Natalie spun around with surprising speed, and her jaw dropped. Two faces matched each other perfectly. A light dusting of freckles covered each small, fragile nose. Two identical pairs of gray-green eyes held matching looks of surprise. The only difference between them was their hair. Kat's dark brown strands were gathered into a ponytail that fell to the middle of her back, with streaks of copper laced through it. Locks of hair pulled away from the others fell alongside her eyes, framing her face. Natalie's hair, meanwhile, was the same shade of dark brown, but the copper was replaced with purple and blue streaks, and it barely went past her shoulders.
"Who are you?" Nat asked after a long silence.
"Kat. Katerina Startun."
Another moment's silence greeted that response, and then laughter. "Funny, but I'm not that stupid, so just forget about it. You might have cloned my face, but that doesn't make you me. Now who are you, really?"
"I never said I was you," Kat shot back angrily. "But your friend Miranda was pretty convinced. No matter how many times I corrected her, she still called me 'Nat!'"
Her twin seemed to be at a loss, so she settled for glaring at the girl before her. A minute later, the man unlocked the closet door; the click of the lock seemed to echo through the silent room. Ignoring her sister, Nat walked back out into the hallway, followed by Kat. She made a motion as if to slam the closet door in her sister's face, but seemed to think better of it and allowed Kat to continue to place her unwanted presence on her twin. Once back in the bar, Miranda, Tyler, and Fionnuala were all completely unprepared to see the two together; despite all having been told that they were twins, none of them had expected to actually see the visual proof. Though, Kat reasoned to herself, it might have been her sister's crazy hair that shocked her friends.
Natalie turned around and glared at the identical girl behind her, which seemed very odd in the silence of the room. I am not your sister! And if you insult my hair one more time, yours will get redone, and I don't think you'll like the results.
Kat's amazement that she was just able to be talked to in her mind was broken by Miranda. "I'm seeing double. There's no way Nat had a twin and didn't tell me about it!"
Natalie shot another glare at Kat. "She's not my sister; I don't know who she is. Come on, Miranda, let's go find Ryan and get away from these freaks."
Instantly, Ty and Fee were standing in front of the dirty glass doors, blocking Nat's intended path. Fee seemed absolutely furious at that statement. "There's no way you're leaving without us. Do you know how long we've been searching for you?! Damnit, we had to break the law on a much more severe level than usual so we could go harass your uncle just to find out who the hell you were! We came here to help you, and the rest of the bloody galaxy, and you think you can just walk away?! Sorry, but it's not going to be that easy."
How did they know I needed help? How could they hear something that Ryan couldn't? Something isn't right, here… Nat's eyes narrowed suspiciously at Kat. It must be my evil "twin." There's something weird about her.
If I'm the evil one, then why do I have the good hair? Aren't the bad guys supposed to be the ones that look weird?
Nat's jaw dropped, but her eyes now sparkled with amusement. "How… how did you hear me?" Their friends all looked at her in confusion.
Could we please be a little bit less obvious? Kat replied. Maybe this little mind trick can be used so we don't freak out our friends? Anyways, we have the same parents; I can do the same stuff as you.
I don't have a twin. My uncle would've told me, Natalie thought stubbornly.
You mean Uncle Adam? Supposedly, he wanted to protect us. What from, I won't tell you now because you won't believe me and I don't want you to think I'm even weirder than you already do. But I'm not going to kill you or anything. If you come with me, I'll explain everything, and I'll get you away from the evil barkeeper, too. It's like a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.
Nat laughed at the last part, and received more odd looks from the others, who couldn't hear the conversation the twins had in their minds. "You know what?" she said suddenly to Miranda. "I think I'll go with them. Maybe Kat really is my long lost sister of something." Seeing everyone's surprised faces, she quickly added, "Don't worry; I'm not leaving now or anything. Can't go without saying goodbye, right?"
The next morning, Kat woke up in the flier still amazed at the fact that she had found her sister. Around noon, when they returned to the bar, she learned just how long she had been gone from Arunsu. Nat had just brought drinks over to the table where Miranda, Tyler, Fee, and Kat were sitting, when Fee gasped. When asked what was wrong, she couldn't bring herself to speak and merely pointed to the back of the magazine that Miranda was flipping through. It was a missing person's ad, and three very familiar faces stared back at the group. Their names: Fionnuala Nadia, Tyler Fenson, and Katerina Startun. Underneath, the ad explained that the three teenagers had been missing for two weeks, and Kat could barely keep herself from laughing as she realized that the stolen Unapolice flier hadn't even been mentioned.
At that moment, another teen entered the bar; by the smiles of Miranda and Nat's faces, the other three guessed him to be Ryan. The cute boy sat down at the table with them calmly, not looking the least bit surprised to see a girl identical to his girlfriend sitting across the table from him.
Why would I be surprised? I always knew that part of Nat was missing; I just didn't know it'd be in the form of a twin. Nice to meet you, by the way.
For a moment, Kat was confused, until she realized that other people must be able to read minds, too.
You didn't really think that you and Nat were the only ones in the galaxy with magic, did you? Oh, and thanks for the compliment, before I forget.
Yet again, Kat was confused; this time, as she tried to think about when she had complimented him. Then, she remembered how she had thought that he was cute when he had first walked in, and he had apparently heard that. Blushing, she turned back to the conversation that the others were having. Unable to control herself, though, Kat let her mind wander to what Ryan had said. Despite what her uncle had said, it had never really dawned on her that Nat and she weren't the only ones with magic. Before she could stop herself, she wondered how Ryan had gotten to be so good at mind reading. The answer to her silent question quickly came.
My family's magic is strongest in mind reading; I can barely do anything else with it.
It was at that point that Kat realized two things. The first was that Ryan would be very useful to take with them to the palace on Tujiper; the second, that Natalie had heard the entire thing. She realized the second fact when Nat silently told her, if you keep flirting with my boyfriend, I'll have to hurt you, even if you are my twin.
Ryan quickly hid a smile behind his hand at that comment, and the silent exchanges ended.
Aloud, Kat said, "We need to decide what we're going to do… here isn't the best place, though. Can you guys come to our flier?"
"You have a flier? What'd you do, steal it?" Nat asked, looking at Kat in disbelief.
Fee and Kat exchanged amused looks, and everyone figured it out pretty quickly. Still, they weren't prepared for it to be a Unapolice flier. As Miranda hesitantly asked why they were walking straight towards the Unapolice, Tyler announced that he traveled in style, and welcomed them to "Tyler Airways." Kat stuck her tongue out at him in a very mature manner as she walked past him into the craft.
"I've heard about this thing. It's the newest model, right? How'd you manage to get it?" Ryan asked in a whisper as Nat and Miranda looked around in curious fascination.
"We have it because of Kat; she's good at stealing things," Fee shot in, ignoring Kat's glare.
As Ryan went to join Miranda in examining the place, Kat dragged to sister aside to a small table near a window.
"All right, I know you're wondering why I'm here…" she began.
"Did you read my mind for that one or are you just good at guessing?" Nat sarcastically interrupted.
"Good at guessing," Kat answered with a grin. "Well, I'm sure you've figured it out, but I kind of… heard you calling out for help. I didn't know who you were, at first, so I went to Uncle Adam and got him to admit to everything. And then he said that we also have magic and that we're…"
She stopped abruptly, unable to bring herself to say it; she was still in denial about that. However, she couldn't prevent herself from thinking the word.
"What?!" Nat yelped. "You've got to be kidding! Princesses? Magic's a very likely possibility, but princess and I just don't go together."
"I know, calm down; I had the same thoughts. It seems impossible, right? But then I had a sort of vision, of the past. So, I knew it was true. And Nat, that guy who is king now? He's evil. It his fault that our parents are dead and we never knew about each other."
Nat remained silent, looking deep in thought. "Kat… you're right. I just… saw him. He was so scary looking…" she said suddenly, as if in a trance. Her eyes weren't looking at her sister or anything else in the Unapolice flier, but at something far away that nobody else could see. Coming out of her trance, she said fervently, "We have to stop him, Kat. We can't let him rule the galaxy. He'll destroy us… and then everyone else."
"Nat, he's already king. If he wanted to destroy everything…" Kat said, after a moment of silence.
Tyler came up at that moment, giving me a reproachful look. "Kat, you need to pay more attention to politics. We don't have a king at the moment. The monarchs died sixteen years ago. Since then, they've been pushing to make their advisor- Phillip Riccaro, the next in like to the throne after the royal family- king. They finally succeeded about a month ago, but his coronation's not for another two months."
"Why has it taken so long?" Nat asked him.
"Because of the princesses. Er, I mean, you and Kat," he replied. Seeing their questioning looks, he elaborated. "One of the assassins… he saw the two of you being put on the boat with your uncle and heading off downstream. For some reason, he told the Royal Council. I don't quite understand why; it meant admitting that he helped to kill the King and Queen. Still, he confessed. As they couldn't find the bodies, it was assumed that you were still alive. But it's been so long that they've basically given up…"
"So, he isn't king yet… Nat, we can still stop him! He's first in line to the throne after the royal family. We are the royal family."
"All right, well, I've decided to come with you guys. It sounds like an adventure… and I haven't been able to have one of those since I was adopted."
"Life's going to be really different, now, huh? Ah, well, you can't get rid of me that easily, you know. I suppose I'll be following you across the galaxy now," Ryan said, throwing a friendly arm around Natalie's shoulders.
"Thanks, Ryan… it'll be nice to have a friend with me. I wish Miranda would be able to come, too, but I won't ask that of her."
That said, the six of them sat down together to set down some plans. They wanted to leave early the next morning, to give everyone time to pack and prepare themselves, but without hanging around any longer than necessary. Nat and Miranda shared a tearful goodbye, with the promise that they would see each other again. For her sister's sake, Kat hoped that they really would be able to do so.
Ryan and Miranda both headed home late in the evening, while Tyler and Fionnuala remained on the flier. Natalie demanded that Katerina spend the night at her house, to which her twin hesitantly agreed. She was a little uneasy about staying in the same area as the bartender, on the chance that he saw her, but Nat insisted that he never cared whenever anyone stayed over and wouldn't even notice.
The twins made their way silently back to the bar, and Natalie instantly began to pack. Though she made no mention of it, it was obvious that she was glad to be leaving. The first thing into her backpack was her CD collection, which made Kat smile; it seemed that both of them had a love for music. It wasn't until they finally decided to sleep that Kat found out the real reason her sister had wanted her to go over.
"Kat?" she asked softly, her voice cutting through the silence. "What do you think they were like? Have you ever… seen them? Like you saw me?"
Kat didn't have to ask who she was talking about, nor did she question how her sister knew that she had "seen" her. Apparently, she just wanted to talk without worrying that Ryan or someone else was secretly eavesdropping on them.
"Yeah, I've seen them… once. Dad…" Kat trailed off for a moment. Dad; the word was so unfamiliar to her. "Dad was handsome and just radiated power, but he was so gentle and loving at the same time. Mom was… so beautiful, and calm."
"That man… Riccaro," Nat whispered. "I saw him… when I was a kid in the orphanage. I was asleep… and suddenly I saw him."
"What was he doing?" Kat questioned, wondering if her twin had seen it from when they were babies, like she had herself.
"He was in a big room, full of people. He was angry, very angry… and he was shouting something like, 'They can't be the lost princesses! If they were, they would have shown themselves long before now!' I just knew he was evil, and that I had seen him somewhere before, though I couldn't ever remember where. But I looked beside me then, and… and you were there. That was why I didn't want to believe you earlier, when you said we were sisters. I didn't want to believe it was real. I just want to be normal, like everyone else… but I don't suppose we'll ever be, will we?"
"No… I suppose not…" Kat muttered sleepily. Just before drifting off, Kat thought how useful it could be, that she saw the past and Nat saw the future. Together, they'd make a good team… and maybe, they'd be able to live through all of the difficulties that Riccaro was sure to throw at them.